Alberta singer-songwriter T. Buckley’s new album Frame By Frame is filled with songs reflecting on the influence other people. In particular, how family members impact our lives and attitudes. Sometimes it seems the spirit of a long gone family member is carried through the younger generation.
“I’m quite fascinated by all that”, says T. (full name, Tim) from his Calgary home, “Certainly there’s a lot of tunes on the record that kind of talk about that a little bit, about the traits you’re inheriting, for better or for worse. It was interesting to dig into.”
Looking into his own family history uncovered a wealth of story ideas.
“The more I started to dig in, it was ‘Oh, these are all interesting stories’. As people we all have interesting stories because we’re all so different, so there’s lots to mine there for sure”, he says. “Once I got on a roll it was fun writing these tunes and I’m really happy with the way they came together and fit on the album.”
A possible catalyst for this nostalgic reflection might be because T. is a father to two young girls.
“I think you just become so aware of how important people are, in my girls’ life and how they see the world. I think that maybe is part of the reason why I started digging back into my own history a little bit.”
The album’s title song is about T.’s grandfather who lives in NB. The 93-year old calls every male member of the family, “George”, no matter what their real name is, he also calls every female member “Lucy” and his own wife everything but her given name of Muriel.
“He’s a total card! Grampie’s kind of like the ‘glue guy’, he’s a larger than life character. There’s not a lot he can’t do. He built the house he’s still living in. He’s sort of the original environmentalist, he doesn’t throw anything out. He thinks, ‘I’ll be able to use this to fix this or that’. There’s something so cool about that generation of folks that we’re not seeing much anymore in today’s world,” T. says.
Not all of the songs on Frame By Frame deal with family history. The remaining songs are reflective of the social environment T. grew up in, specifically, 'Settler’s Town'.
“It’s an interesting time right now ’cause we’re having a lot of conversations that are much needed and long overdue”, he says.
T. stressed the importance of the settler’s relationship to Indigenous people. He grew up in a little community, right next to an Indian reserve.
“During that time (there was) not a lot of dialogue about the residential school system, the horrific conditions in that system and the resulting intergenerational trauma that has impacted the Indigenous people. Just that lack of dialogue is concerning and (the song) is me reflecting on that community a little bit and seeing how some negative stereotypes and attitudes can spread. (So there’s) the part I have to own in that (and) the part we all have to own as settler people,” he says.
Younger Generations are Learning to Understand
T. looks to his daughters to see how there is some progress being made in terms of righting a long-standing injustice.
“My kids are only three and five and they know all about it. They’re talking about it, they’re doing land acknowledgments daily,” he says, “That shows to me there are steps forward but certainly we’ve got a long way to go.”
During a recent tour of AB, T. donated a portion of merchandise sales to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
“It’s a little thing, trying to take steps forward”, he says' Settler’s Town' felt like a song that needed to be written to acknowledge the things I have to own, the things we all have to own, from those experiences.”
A New Collaboration
T. has recently started co-writing. So far he has worked with John Wort Hannam after previously having members of his former backing band help arrange some of his songs.
“I haven’t really done the Nashville-style, ‘Let’s grab a coffee and a blank sheet of paper and bang out a tune!’. I haven’t done a ton of that but I’ve worked with John a fair bit now,” T. says.
He says the two artists work well together and enjoy collaborating.
“We’re comfortable with each other (and) we’re OK with telling the other guy when something’s no good. Which is probably the most important thing, nobody takes it too personally,” T. says.
They bring each other music he describes as half-baked.
“There’s some bones there and the other guy says, ‘Oh that’s cool. What if you did this?’. I bet you there’s half a dozen tunes we’ve collaborated on over the last couple of records. Some of them are on his records and some on mine. It’s cool to have a relationship like that with a guy who I think is a great songwriter,” T. says.
Being able to tour again this past November was quite special for T.
“During COVID people got creative. I did play on a lot of front lawns and stuff”, he laughs. “It was awesome, totally great. Kudos to everybody for getting creative and trying to keep a little bit of the community happening. But it’s so not the same as being in a venue.”
For more information on Frame By Frame and T. Buckley, go to tbuckley.ca.